Jessica Sarrach ‘24, Lyonlife Editor-in-chief
You sit down to spend time with your favorite person, bonding so that you feel less alone. You follow them on all of their socials, you always know where they are, and you spend as much time with them as possible—you feel like you really know this person on a deeper level. Eventually, you begin to see them as a best friend, and you really want to hold their attention. The problem is that you do not know this person, and they will never have a real relationship with you. The extreme parasocial bonds that are being formed to celebrities is not healthy.
A parasocial relationship is a one-sided bond formed between two people, when one of these people is completely unaware of the other person’s existence. These relationships are most commonly observed between celebrities and their fans. There is nothing wrong with having an interest in different forms of media, or even talking a liking to different celebrities themselves; however, the line between interest and obsession can merge rather quickly, moving a healthy viewership to an unhealthy infatuation.
Anyone can fall victim to parasocial relationships, but there exists some qualities that can make a person more likely to become attached to these online personas. Benit Kutalu, an expert on parasocial relationships wrote, “[parasocial relationships] [are] most prevalent with individuals with low self esteem and social anxiety. They use these relationships to deal with societal rejection.” This makes many children and adolescents who cling to the online world to escape their current realities and rejections at an extreme high risk of becoming involved in parasocial behaviors.
Parasocial relationships are considered dangerous because they can create delusional relationships with viewers. They may start to feel like the person they see online is actually their friend, or rather take dramatic action to get these online personas to notice them. Parasocial relationships also lead to people defending the actions of a celebrity just because they want to believe that the person they idolize could never do anything wrong. Being too invested in another person’s life can also push a person further from caring about their own lives, especially if they use this parasocial relationship to escape whatever traumatic events are occurring in real life. Sophomore Kassidee Agnew said, “Nothing is wrong with having a favorite celebrity or liking a celebrity. When somebody begins to spend all day, every day thinking about that celebrity, or researching everything they do is when it starts to become a problem.” She continued, “ When somebody begins to spend all their money just for a chance to see this celebrity in public is an example of the problem of parasocial relationships.” She even added, “People spend all of their time and money worrying about and wondering where this person they idolize will be next, even though they are completely unaware of your existence. For some celebrities who attempt to keep their personal lives secret, it is an invasion of privacy.” The abundant amount of resources that can be spent in pursuit of connecting to these high society members effectively harms parties involved.
Parasocial relationships are becoming more and more common. Though, by staying off screens when feeling anxious and continuing to try to make connections in the real world they can be avoided. Many people choose to use parasocial relationships to fill a void they may feel in the physical world, so by establishing relationships with the real world, there is hope to pull them away from the estranged obsession that some might have grown.